Minutes 07-30-09

Sustainable Feedstock Conference Planning Team Minutes
July 30, 2009

Doug Karlen (ARS), Jeff Steiner (ARS), Dewayne Johnson (SWCS), Don Wysocki (Oregon State University & SWCS), Laura Neal (DOE), Alison Goss-Eng (DOE), Mike Jawson (USGS), Carol Kramer-LeBlanc (OCE), Neil Conklin (Farm Foundation), John Bonner (CAST), Pradip Das (Monsanto), Nathan Fields (National Corn Growers Assoc.), Susan Jenkins (UC-Berkely), Kevin Kephart (Sun Grant Assoc.), John Miranowski (Iowa State University), Stefanie Aschmann (NRCS), William Goldner (CSREES), Oksana Gieseman (SWCS), Jim Doolittle (Sun Grant Assoc.)

Unable to Join:
Richard Hess (INL), Carmella Bailey (CSREES), Alan Hecht (EPA), Andy Manale (EPA & SWCS), Roger Wolf (Iowa Soybean Assoc.), Corey Radtke (Shell Oil)


  1. Introductions (Karlen)
  2. Additions to Agenda
  3. Review/Discuss Outline and Summary below including:
    1. Workshop Objectives
    2. Workshop Outcomes
    3. Audience
    4. Budget Expectations
  4. Outline Primary/Secondary Presentation topics
  5. Discuss Logistics/Location
  6. Adjourn

The Call began with introductions and a brief overview by Doug on how we got to this point in planning for a Workshop. Participants were referred to the Outline and Summary distributed prior to the call. It was recognized this was a very broad planning team and a very broad workshop plan with the goal being to develop a “roadmap” for developing sustainable feedstock supplies for bioenergy, biofuels, and bioproducts.

Laura asked about the timeline and Doug responded that our current target was September 1 to October 10, 2010 with the first week of December 2010 being an alternate time. Doug added the timeline will need to accommodate the goal of having draft papers out for review prior to the Workshop. John Bonner (JB) suggested that registered participants could serve as reviewers. Doug responded stating this was the general idea, with early access being given to registered persons who could download the draft papers prior to the Workshop.

Bill Goldner asked who the anticipated audience is. Doug asked Alison to respond first and she stated it would be those persons who are involved with understanding where we are in achieving sustainable feedstock supplies and to help plan for future Research & Development (R&D).

Kevin suggested the workshop would be “self-informing” for the R&D community with emphasis on what has happened and what direction future development should take

Bill responded that several on this planning team are members of the Biomass Research and Development Board and that the series of papers they are currently working on may provide a good starting point for some of the authors. Doug added that the recent National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report would be another background source and that many of the issues to be addressed have on-going SunGrant activities.

Pradip asked if this was to be a retrospective or forward-looking Workshop. Doug responded that it was to be predominantly forward looking, recognizing that we have a lot of information that can be drawn from to help develop a consensus roadmap.

Stephanie added that this Workshop should go beyond research recommendations – it must include guidance for policy and policy implementation decisions. Neil concurred, adding that to be different the Workshop had to go far beyond production and logistics – economics and policy implications will be the real drivers. Doug responded that he envisioned the “White Papers” would provide background but more importantly identify current constraints and make specific recommendations on how to overcome those constraints.

Laura suggested looking at the Billion Ton Study (BTS) and especially at the revised BTS that Oakridge and other partners are developing to help identify the gaps.

Dewayne asked how this Workshop would be different from all the others that are being offered. How do we see the connection between sustainability and the environment? It has to be more than another conference to set research direction, agenda, and funding requests.

Jeff responded stating that this team and those we know have a tremendous amount of expertise and that we are capable of using that knowledge to critique where we are regarding sustainable feedstock supplies and projecting the most expedient ways to get the “Billion Tons.” He stressed that by having a “clear end product” (i.e. the roadmap/publication) this effort can be unique and very valuable.

John Miranowski (JM) questioned whether it was really possible to sustainably get to a billion tons or if we even needed a billion tons. At current projected yields, a billion tons would result in 70 to 80 billion gallons of biofuels – far greater than the projected need to meet the renewable fuel standards. Do we really want to maintain the “billion tons” in our Workshop title? How much is really achievable in a sustainable manner and what will it cost? The product of this Workshop should look at what it will take to get to an amount that is achievable in a sustainable manner.

Neil asked if we really know what level of feedstock can be produced in a sustainable manner and used for bioenergy production over the next X years. He stressed again the importance of being able to help guide policy as a result of this effort.

Alison responded that it is NOT necessary to assume we have to achieve the billion tons.

Carol stated that she was pleased to see and hear that regional differences were going to be recognized and that social and economic concerns were to be considered with the same importance as feedstock production and logistics.

Pradip asked if studies such as the corn stover partnership between Monsanto, John Deere, and ADM would have a place in this Workshop. Their first year experiences have helped identify several real logistics, infrastructure, and technology challenges that need to be solved. They encountered REAL problems that must be solved to develop viable, sustainable systems.

Doug responded stating that his vision was to include 3 to 4 “case studies” among the chapters, since these were real-world experiences that need to be shared with all.

Kevin stated that a good focus would be on “landscape impacts” of annual versus perennial biomass crops, woody species as well as crop residues. What are the wildlife habitat, water quality, agronomic, soil resource, air quality, nutrient, carbon, and other impacts?

Doug commented that this is exactly what was outlined in the NAS report as a landscape vision that used the need to produce food, feed, fiber, and fuel while simultaneously addressing the multiple issues of bioenergy, carbon sequestration, soil-water-air quality, wildlife, community development, economics, social concerns, etc. as an integrated system.

Stephanie stated that the roadmap can’t focus only on soil resource response if that is the goal. The policies are what may result in unforeseen effects if not properly developed or implemented. We need to focus on all of the critical issues that prevent this new land use from taking us “over the cliff.”

Susan added that most of the other conferences focus on technology and then throw in a bit of socio-economic information as an after-thought. Having a strong focus on the social, economic, and environmental aspects of sustainability would be extremely valuable and give .this effort a unique impact. Emphasis should be on integrated feedstock approaches with all aspects, interactions, and potential consequences being assessed and evaluated.

Bill stated that a systems approach would need to integrate genetic development, conversion systems, and other factors to provide a complete assessment of sustainability. The outcome should provide some examples of what would be sustainable.

Doug added that with regard to the conversion issue, we should not have a single model in mind. Centralized and distributed concepts need to be equally and fully evaluated.

Jeff concurred adding that specific case studies would help accomplish this assessment.

John M. also stressed the need for examining multiple options on conversion. Can a super enzyme be identified for all feedstocks? Need to rigorously compare distributed and centralized models and concepts.

Jeff stressed that regardless of the technologies that are eventually selected, the expectations are huge! What this Workshop must accomplish is a sound, scientific assessment of the potential for producing feedstocks without disrupting productivity, economic, social, and environmental or other factors required for truly sustainable systems.

Dewayne asked if this was the proper time to begin outlining the chapters/issues that need to be included. Are we at a point where we are comfortable moving the process forward?

It was decided this could best be done using written input through the Wiki.

Doug asked if after reading the proposal and hearing the discussion there were concerns that this Workshop was too big and should not be undertaken. Hearing no objections, the next steps were summarized.

Action Items
1. Fiscal Resources – each Agency/Organization represented should let Dewayne know what protocol is appropriate for requesting funds.

2. Location – the southeastern U.S. sounds great to everyone – in part because within the U.S. this region has the highest net productivity capacity.

3. Focus — thought should be given to whether the focus is on bioenergy or biofuels

4. Scope — planning Team members should begin outlining the critical chapters (presentations) that need to be made and to submit them to Dewayne for compilation and posting on the wiki for review and organization by the planning team. Afterward the team members will identify lead authors or teams of authors.

5. Minutes – Doug and Dewayne were responsible for summarizing the call, posting the minutes, and moving the next steps forward.

Dewayne concluded asking for comments on the proposed Workshop titles. John Miranowski commented about removing the reference to the Billion Tons. This led to a “working title” of “Roadmap to Sustainable Biofuels Feedstock Production.” There was then a final question regarding whether it should be Biofuels, Bioenergy or Biomass. Comments from the team are requested.

Respectfully submitted,
Doug Karlen, co-chair

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